Dr. Rebecca Scales is an Associate Professor of History at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. Her research focuses on the history of radio broadcasting in France, as well as the history of disability, medicine, and public health.
Her book Radio and the Politics of Sound in Interwar France, 1921-1939 (Cambridge, 2016) examines the impact of a new auditory culture of broadcast sound on French society and politics. She demonstrates how radio became a platform for political engagement, transforming the act of listening into an important, if highly contested, practice of citizenship. Rejecting models of broadcasting as the weapon of totalitarian regimes or a tool for forging democracy from above, the book offers a nuanced picture of the politics of radio by uncovering competing interpretations of listening and diverse uses of broadcast sound that flourished between the world wars. Related articles have appeared in Comparative Studies in Society and History, French Historical Studies, and Media History.
She is currently at work on an article examining a 1947 radio program titled “La Tribune de l’Invalide.” Reading the program’s transcripts alongside a rare archive of letters from listeners with physical disabilities, the article examines how radio contributed to the remaking of the welfare state in Liberation-era France. She is also working on a new book project, The Hidden History of Polio in France, which weaves the history of disability into larger narratives of epidemic disease management and public health in 20th-century France.